/ 24 December 2010

Spitting in the faces of the corrupt

Zapiro may be facing yet another lawsuit from President Jacob Zuma, but if his latest cartoon is anything to go by, the famed cartoonist is not going to be silenced any time soon.

Zapiro, AKA Jonathan Shapiro, took aim at a number of public figures in his cartoon for the final Mail & Guardian newspaper of the year on Thursday.

The sketch in the newspaper, done in his trademark black and white style, shows a number of corrupt politicians and businessmen gathered around a bare woman laden with sushi.

However Zapiro has released a colour version for the website.

Click to enlarge

“The combination of corrupt politicians and business people is a big one for me, and that’s what I tried to find an image for,” Zapiro said on Thursday.

The Last Sushi
While casting around for a powerful image that people were familiar with to wrap up the year, a friend mentioned renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper.

“It’s more of an Easter image but I’ve been wanting to do a sushi theme for a while and that jumped into my head.”

It made for a layered cartoon, drawing together a number of strands. It referenced in particular ex-convict turned businessman Kenny Kunene, whose R700 000 birthday bash in October saw sushi being served on half-naked models.

“It speaks about excess and decadence and people who have been reaching unashamedly for that — even when confronted they’re not embarrassed,” Shapiro said.

Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi lambasted Kunene for “spitting in the face of the poor” — a challenge Kunene brushed aside in a public statement.

The cartoon shows leaders of the left, Gwede Mantashe and Vavi shunning the proceedings.

The rest of the cast are made up of various politicians and businessman — from Zuma to his nephew turned tenderpreneur, Khulubuse Zuma.

Selebi at the table
The figures were carefully chosen from a longer list in consultation with M&G editor Nic Dawes. “We spoke and we cut out people who were not caught, were mild or were not in the news this year.”

The colour edition also has a new addition. While the original carries the ghost of slain mining magnate Brett Kebble “still nibbling at the table”, Shapiro felt it was important to include former top cop Jackie Selebi, who was jailed for corruption in August.

Thus one of the windows to the right of the table was turned into a prisoner’s window, with Selebi looking out licking his lips. “He’d like to be at the table,” said Shapiro.

And if you think the sushi platter looks familiar you’d be right — it’s South Africa’s self-styled “Paris Hilton” Khanyi Mbau, who pulled her own sushi stunt shortly after Kunene’s.

“In a way she’s only there for excess but she’s not a big player like any of the others are [in terms of] corruption. She’s just a lightweight,” said Shapiro.

The cartoon comes on the back of a summons issued in the South Gauteng High Court on Friday December 10, by Zuma. The president began proceedings against Avusa Media, former Sunday Times editor-in-chief Mondli Makhanya and Shapiro for the cartoon published on September 7 2008.

That cartoon showed Zuma loosening his trousers while African National Congress Youth League president Julius Malema, Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and South African Communist Party leader Blade Nzimande hold Lady Justice down. ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe then says: “Go for it, boss.”

Delayed reaction
Zuma is demanding R4-million from Avusa, Makhanya and Shapiro for humiliating and degrading him. He also demands a further R1-million for damaging his reputation.

Media and legal experts have been surprised at the two year delay in reaction. There have been a number of legal actions started by the presidency against Zapiro but not taken further.

“I’m feeling confident about the court case, especially if this goes far and becomes an issue that is debated at the Constitutional Court and so on. I think it would be crucial publicity for freedom of expression and an important win,” said Zaprio.

But he felt less confident about general freedom of expression in the country, with the latest threats to media freedom by government.

“For the past 15 or 20 years I’ve been able to do what I’ve wanted to do with the help of editors. But obviously I’m not confident in freedom of expression right now. And there are clearly moves from powerful people to curb that.”